The observance of the 30th Anniversary of the People Power Revolution of 1986 on Feb. 25 as a special non-working holiday is making us pensioners recall—and long for—those happy six years of La Niña pension increases that it ushered thereafter.
At that time, the Social Security System has already developed into a stable national pension scheme after being run by Administrator Gilberto Teodoro for 20 uninterrupted years, starting when it was barely nine years old. The SSS had been managed by GT for two-thirds of its existence since its establishment on Sept. 1, 1957.
GT’s turnover of SSS to our present Ambassador to the US Joey Cuisia was simple but it was cordial, respectful and filled with gratitude. The successor clearly acknowledged his predecessor’s role in handing to him an institution that was loved and relied upon by its members, and manned by a lean team of disciplined and hardworking workforce.
Most importantly, its funds were intact.
In fact, earlier that Jan. 1, SSS granted a 20-percent pension increase without needing congressional agreement or additional contributions. It only needed FM’s approval.
SSS could very well afford to grant that increase. The year before in 1985, it collected P1.854 billion in contributions and paid out P1.267 billion in benefits. Incredibly, it also earned P4.871 billion from the investments of its assets of P24.724 billion.
Throughout the next six years, President Cory Aquino would be casting her magic spell on SSS to continuously recommend and pour those La Niña pension increases.
But perhaps due to the recent GT and FM pension increase, Administrator Cuisia started his non-stop recommendations with modest proposals of increasing the minimum monthly pension from P120 to P200, funeral expense benefit from P1,000 to P1,500, and sickness benefit from 85 to 90 percent of the daily salary credit.
Coincidentally, he submitted these recommendations on his 42nd birthday on July 16, which Cory promptly approved as if her approval were her birthday gift to him.
Of course, it was also timed for the forthcoming SSS anniversary that Sept. 1.
Imagine—if the P120 minimum pension was never increased because it was all that poor pensioners were entitled to out of their past contributions, what could it buy now? Not even a kilo of galunggong!
He followed these up, however, with a 20-percent increase in pensions and significant enhancements of the funeral expense, maternity, and sickness programs. Boldly, he recommended a threefold increase in the maximum monthly salary credit from P1,000 to P3,000.
These were all approved by Cory on Christmas Eve of 1986.
In the next SSS anniversary in 1987, she again approved a 20-percent pension increase and doubled the minimum pension to P400.
SSS increased further funeral expense benefits and enhanced the salary and housing loan programs in 1988.
But by Christmas Day that year, Administrator Cuisia had the first ever 13th month pension paid. It was an unlegislated new benefit which has become since then a traditional Christmas offering of SSS.
Come Sept. 1 of 1989, SSS increased again pensions by 15 percent and raised the minimum amount to P500.
These were Administrator Cuisia’s parting pension enhancements before moving to Central Bank as its governor on Feb. 20, 1990.
Administrator Rene Valencia—then Union Bank’s president—was tapped to replace him at SSS. Right away on Labor Day, he added as new benefit a monthly supplemental pension of P300 for totally disabled members.
On its anniversary, SSS granted a 15-percent pension increase aside from increasing other benefits. For the first time, it scheduled annual increases of P1,000 in the maximum salary credit until it would double to P6,000.
During Labor Day in 1991, SSS again granted a 15-percent pension increase. It also raised the minimum monthly pension to P600 for death and disability pensioners and to P800 for retirement pensioners.
Then, on its anniversary that same year, SSS increased by another 10 percent pensions and made the minimum pension P800 for death and disability pensioners and P1,000 for retirement pensioners.
In the last year of Cory’s administration, SSS enhanced the maternity benefits program on April 23, 1992 and increased to P8,000 the funeral expense benefit on May 1.
Not one program enhancement needed any congressional approval during Cory’s six years of presidency, which, undoubtedly was a La Niña period of pension increases.
There should be no question either that these were prudently granted on the basis of sound financial and actuarial grounds.
Among other reasons, they were recommended by Administrators Cuisia and Valencia who were known and trusted bankers in tandem with Chairman Dodo Roa Jr. of the Social Security Commission, who was a professional actuary and whose father Emeterio Sr. once served also as SSS administrator from 1958 to 1959.
Cory and her SSS officials had the heart and mind to deliver a relevant and responsive social security program.
Strangely, Cory’s son and his “Daang Matuwid” buddies did the opposite by subjecting us to a six-year El Niño period of pension increases.
Still, he wants us to continue treading his chosen path in the next six years.